Opioids

You might have heard the term “opioids” on the news. It’s a general term for any number of prescription medications and illegal drugs that are derived from or act like opium, which comes from the poppy plant. Prescription opioids such as fentanyl, codeine and morphine are often prescribed by doctors to treat intense pain, and in that they are highly effective. However, opioids have a dark side, in that they can be highly addictive if misused, and have been known to destroy entire communities.

How Opioids Work

Opioids work by targeting specific opioid receptors in the body, called the mu, delta and kappa receptors which are located in the brain stem, limbic system and the spinal cord. The spinal cord is where they stop pain signals from reaching the brain, which provides pain relief; the brainstem is where opioids slow down breathing and reducing painful coughing. The limbic system is where opioids can produce a pleasurable effect and helps people relax. It is this pleasurable feeling that leads many people down the road to opioid abuse.

Opioid Abuse

Those who take opioids without a prescription or use illegal substances like heroin run a high risk of opioid abuse or addiction because of the effects opioids have on the reward center of the brain. Opioids flood the brain with a chemical called dopamine, giving people the euphoria they are seeking, and making opioids highly addictive. Since the brain is hardwired to repeat pleasurable behaviors, this is what starts many down the path to opioid abuse and addiction.

Some of the symptoms of opioid abuse include:

  • Decreased sense of pain
  • Dizziness
  • Euphoria
  • Decreased respiration
  • Sedation
  • Stomach upset, including nausea, vomiting and constipation

Opioid Addiction

The effects of opioids wear off over time as the body builds tolerance toward the drug. In order to feel the same effects of the drug, a person has to take more and more of the drug. But eventually this stops working as the brain stops producing dopamine on its own and becomes dependent on the drug to do so. When an individual is unable to feel pleasure normally without the use of the drug and when their brain causes them to compulsively seek the drug, it means they have developed an addiction.

There are specific symptoms of opioid addiction including

  • Doctor shopping — obtaining multiple prescriptions from different doctors to obtain more opioids
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not taking opioids
  • An increased reliance on an opioid in order to get through everyday life
  • Switching from one opioid to another, such as going from prescription medication to heroin
  • Depression
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Episodes of psychosis
  • Abuse of other opioids
  • Permanent mental impairments
  • Compulsively seeking out the drug (i.e., addiction), often at the expense of everything else

When a person starts abusing opioids or becomes addicted, it can take over their entire life, and they are always at risk of overdose. Addiction is a deadly disease if left untreated for those reasons, so it’s crucial a person seeks out opioid addiction treatment.

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Opioid Treatment Programs

Recovering from opiate addiction is a long process, and a person must be committed to getting better.

The first step is to seek out credentialed opiate rehab or opiate detox centers, where they can then go through opioid treatment programs. Detox is the first crucial step in treatment for opioid addiction, as a patient rids their bodies of a drug. Withdrawal symptoms of opioids include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Lacrimation (eyes tearing up)
  • Runny nose
  • Excessive sweating
  • inability to sleep
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Goose bumps on the skin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dilated pupils and possibly blurry vision
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure

Detox should be supervised by a medical professional who can treat the patient’s withdrawal symptoms and any life-threatening issues that may arise.
Once they finish detox, the next stage of treatment is therapy. This is often the most critical part of treatment, as a person has to learn how to live without opioids. This also involves learning about the nature of addiction and how it affects a person, and gaining the skills needed to live a drug-free life.

During treatment, a patient should also address any co-occurring illnesses they may have. Often people may have an undiagnosed illnesses along with their main illnesses, such as opiate addiction and depression. If one is treated and not the other, the secondary illness can hinder a person’s recovery and make it more difficult for them to avoid relapse.

After their initial treatment, a person should work to maintain their recovery by attending programs such as a 12-step program. This can give them the support they start long journey toward recovering from opiate addiction.

Do you or a loved one need opioid addiction treatment? Sovereign Health of El Paso, Texas, offers world-class opiate addiction treatment centers, which can help someone get on the road to recovery and learn how to live life drug-free. Find out more about our opioid treatment programs by calling our 24/7 helpline.

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“The therapy here helped me really look at myself and find that I am a strong individual that can deal with this and move forward in my life.”- Katie